Published: 1st April 2016
In April 1908, the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway unveiled a steam locomotive cab air conditioning system to keep their drivers and firemen comfortable in summer and winter.
Despite having what is known as a half-cab to work in, there being no protection from the elements at the back of the footplate apart from the tender, the working environment was a harsh one.
In the summer, it could become unbearably hot despite the large open space and in the winter, it would be freezing despite having a fire in front of you.
The answer was to design an air intake from the smokebox (the front of the locomotive) and gather the air in tubes into one large tube which ran alongside the locomotive frame and into the cab.
This had an adjustable nozzle which the driver and fireman could adjust as required, as well as a valve which turned off the air supply if so desired.
The locomotive selected for the experiment was designed by William Stroudley as an express passenger engine. The one selected was named Edward Blount and fitted with air conditioning system designed by Mr. W. J. Hammond.
Whether the experiment was a success or otherwise was not recorded but ether way, it was an ingenious attempt at installing air conditioning to both warm or cool the footplate over 100 years ago!